Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I love long fingernails, especially when they’re the real thing. But they can’t be too long. Those ones that are so long they curl under? They freak me out. Have you ever seen the woman who got into the Guinness Book of World Records for her super long nails? That picture always triggers my gag reflex. It’s like her curly-q fingernails reach off the page and touch my uvula.

All my life I wanted long nails but for the longest time I didn’t and couldn’t have them because I bit mine. I didn’t bite mine as short as my college roommate though. She bit hers halfway down the nail bed and she had eczema. Or was it (the heartbreak of) psoriasis? Her hands always looked like they were made of pink phyllo dough that hadn’t been sprayed with water, the way they tell you to do on the box.

I remember the first time my nails were long enough to paint. I painted them, “Poppies Will Make Them Sleep” red. I walked into my brother’s hospital room with my hands leading the way and my fingers splayed out so that even on pain meds, he couldn’t miss them.

His smile was weak but it made me happy. Of my three older brothers, he and I fought the most, but after he was in the hospital for four weeks, I started to miss him.

“You stopped biting them,” he said, his eyes only half open. “Did you do that just for me?”

“Yep,” I said. It was a lie. Well, half a lie. I gave up biting them so that I could show him I cared, the way some people give up eating for a little while to get closer to God. But in the end, the long nails were for me.

Growing up, I bit my nails constantly. I usually sat on my hands because they were so ugly. In addition to being a nail biter, I was a wart magnet. I had warts on every single one of my fingers, all over my cuticles. I had little bumpy wart frames around each gnawed fingernail.

I’d paint the warts with Compound W and blow on them ‘til the stinging stopped and the nail polishy medicine turned white. Then I wrapped them in Johnson & Johnson medical tape. I did this like, forever. Besides not working, this ritual was really unattractive. I wonder if people thought I had leprosy?

One day though, all the warts disappeared. My family went to Myrtle Beach (along with everyone else in West Virginia) for a week and I think something in the salt water ate my warts. Yay me!

A few years back my mom gave me some high tech nail strengthener. She’d bought a bottle for her and a bottle for me off an infomercial. It worked great!

Almost every day when I walk my son to the bus stop, if I’m not wearing my apple green leather gloves, I hold my hands out and admire the long, painted, slightly squared tips.

Sometimes I walk with my eyes closed. “Thanks God . . . for my now long fingernails. I think it’s you giving me the desires of my heart, now that I believe in you.”

One day Mom turned my hands over and looked at the undersides of my nails.

I snorted. “What? Do you think they’re fake?”

She let go of my hands.

I made a snot face. “You’re the one who gave me the stuff that made ‘em long, remember?”

That’s how good they look now. Still, it bugs me that my own mom doesn’t believe me. I don’t lie much these days.

I had fake nails for a little while but they drove me nuts! I gave them to my husband for his birthday ‘cause he really likes long, painted nails, especially when they’re red. I had them put on at the beauty school.

They sure were pretty, but man, they were a hassle. Every week, one or two of them would pop off and I’d have to go back to the beauty school, with my daughter in a pumpkin seat, and get ‘em glued back on.

I never mastered life with super long nails. How do you go to the bathroom with them? How do you change a baby’s diaper with them? How do you pick coins off the ground? How do you open a car door without breaking one?

I pulled all ten of them off after three months. That night, my husband looked across the dinner table at my hands. His bottom lip slid out. “All gone?”

I nodded. “All gone.”

He’s happy my long nails are back now. I have to give him some credit. Since he adores long, painted fingernails, he does the dishes more often than not these days.

“It’s washing dishes that makes them break, right?” he said one night.

I felt my head go up and down. The truth is, it’s the being in the dishwater that makes fingernails weak and I always wear yellow, Playtex gloves when I do dishes. But, if I get out of doing dishes several nights a week, maybe I’ll just let him keep thinking that doing dishes equals short, stubby nails.

Just between you and me, I’m pretty sure there’s another reason he does the dishes, besides the fact that I hate it. I think he thinks that if he helps me out in the kitchen, I just might help him out in another room of the house later in the day. Maybe, just maybe, he’s right.

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